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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Oscar Predictions 2015: Round Two

        Hello, and welcome back to Hype Starts Here's 2015 Oscar Predictions. Yes, this is obviously premature, given that the ceremony won't be held until springtime next year, but that didn't stop me from throwing out a few guesses way back in February, so why stop now? With both the Telluride and Venice film festivals taking place this weekend, the buzzers are finally starting to buzz, and a certain degree of clarity is just now arriving. Here's what the tea leaves are saying:

1. Bridge of Spies (Previous Ranking: 1)
        Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, historical drama, true story, war-time setting. It won't even be cause to celebrate if this gets a Best Picture nomination, only a letdown if it doesn't. Assuming the Academy still nominates between 6-10 films each year, it's essentially guaranteed.

2. Steve Jobs (Previous Ranking: 12)
        An unfinished version of the film premiered at Telluride last night to rapturous praise, especially for star Michael Fassbender, who is said to be the new favorite to win Best Actor. The subject matter was always going to attract Oscar's attention, and with three previous award winners on hand (Director Danny Boyle, Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, and Actress Kate Winslet), the Apple founder biopic is starting to look like a lock.

3. Carol (Previous Ranking: 11)
        One of the few films listed near the top of this list that's already been seen and lauded, Carol picked up a Best Actress win at the Cannes film festival for Rooney Mara's performance. Her co-star (Cate Blanchett) already has two golden statues to her name; there's a lot to like here.

4. The Revenant (Previous Ranking: 3)
        As the director of the reigning Best Picture winner (Birdman), Alejandro González Iñárritu no longer needs to wave his arms around in the air to catch Oscar's attention. With Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy along for the ride, this revenge epic is right in the mix.

5. Joy (Previous Ranking: 4)
        This story of a single mother rising to entrepreneurial success might not scream 'Best Picture,' but you know what does? Director David O. Russell (Silver Linings PlaybookAmerican Hustle) leading a cast featuring Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro, headlined by Jennifer Lawrence.

6. Inside Out (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
        Just like Carol, I have Inside Out near the top of my list simply because we already know it's good. Pixar landed a film in the Best Picture race in the first two years of the category's recent expansion (Up and Toy Story 3), and Inside Out is presently rocking a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes.

7. Spotlight (Previous Ranking: 15)
        Before The Cobbler took an absolute BEATDOWN from critics, Thomas McCarthy was behind the wheel on three straight beloved indies (The Station AgentThe VisitorWin Win). He's back with Spotlight, a potboiler that follows the Boston Globe's uncovering of a molestation scandal within a local Catholic church. With a stacked cast in tow (including a maybe-we-should-make-it-up-to-him Michael Keaton), and rave reviews coming out of Venice, McCarthy might finally make a splash.

8. The Hateful Eight (Previous Ranking: 9)
        I'm still hesitant to put my faith in what essentially looks like a western redux of Reservoir Dogs, but with two straight Best Picture nominees under his belt (Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained), it's almost time for us to think of Tarantino as a perennial Oscar favorite along the lines of Spielberg and Scorsese.

9. Brooklyn (Previous Ranking: 27)
        Most Oscar seasons find space for a Sundance film that either makes the final cut, or misses it by just a hair. My pick for this season is Brooklyn, a 1950's coming of age romance that's already won over the hearts of those who attended the aforementioned festival back in January.

10. The Danish Girl (Previous Ranking: 42)
        I readily admit that I previously underrated The Danish Girl purely out of scorn (on multiple occasions, I have argued, in earnest, that The Theory of Everything is a worse movie than Transformers: Age of Extinction), but Eddie Redmayne and Tom Hooper have both won oscars within the last half decade, and this transexual drama will be arriving in theaters as its subject is becoming a hot button topic. Early reviews range from ecstatic to passive, and when Oscar has already shown you some gold-man love, that's often enough.

11. Suffragette (Previous Ranking: 20)
        A historical drama about the early days of the feminist movement, Suffragette stars Carey Mulligan and the walking Oscar statue known simply as Meryl Streep. Early word has been somewhat mild, though praise for Mulligan has been universal, and the Academy might find that subject a bit too topical to pass on.

12. Miles Ahead (Previous Ranking: 16)
        Musical biopics that come out near the end of the year are always in the hunt for a Best Picture nomination, and this one finds one of Hollywood's most well-respected actors (Don Cheadle) wearing a slew of hats (writer, director, producer, and star) to make his Miles Davis film come to life. The Academy loves a passion project.

13. I Saw the Light (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
        Almost everything listed above works in favor of this film as well, accept that Hank Williams isn't as fondly remembered as Miles Davis, and Don Cheadle has years of 'veteran status' to potentially ward off Tom Hiddleston.

14. The Good Dinosaur (Previous Ranking: 43)
          It's Pixar, and the list of potential Picture nominees seems shorter than usual. I don't think both this and Inside Out can crack the line-up in the same year, but you've got to think at least one will.

15. In the Heart of the Sea (Previous Ranking: 31)
        Ever since the 2009 expansion of the Best Picture lineup, there's almost universally been a slot for a big budget spectacle at the big kids' table. I remain skeptical of this movie on every level, but Oscar has repeatedly shown Ron Howard love, and this is presently in the pole position to take the imaginary 'effects driven epic' slot.

16. Beasts of No Nation (Previous Ranking: 10)
        Early word just started pouring in, and it's been ecstatic. Serious subject matter (African child soldiers) paired with an up-and-coming director (Cary Fukanaga) and an actor due for a break out (Idris Elba), this would be right near the top of my list... if it weren't simply being released on Netflix. There's simply no way to know how the Academy will deal with a 'streaming only' Best Picture aspirant, so we'll just keep it on the back burner for now.

17. Youth (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
        Paolo Sorrentino's last film, The Great Beauty, took home the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Now directing in Oscar's native tongue, and bringing Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel and Rachel Weisz along with him, making the leap is within the realm of possibility.

18. Sicario (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
        Mark my words: Denis Villeneuve will make a BIG splash at the Oscars in the very near future. This drug trafficking drama, staring overdue Emily Blunt, seems like a perfect vehicle, but early reviews make it sound 'very good', as opposed to 'great.'

19. The Program (Previous Ranking: 8)
        Director Stephen Frears (The Queen, Philomena) telling the tale of Lance Armstrong's rise and subsequent fall wherein the former icon is played by the eternally underrated Ben Foster; I loooove this film's odds in concept, but where the heck is it? No festival dates or advertising materials in sight.

20. Genius (Previous Ranking: 13)
        File this one in the same folder as The Program; Colin Firth as a book editor who effected the work of Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald is a hell of a lead, but do they have any plans of actually showing the film to audiences?

21. Black Mass (Previous Ranking: 14)
        Crazy Heart's Scott Cooper helms this tale of infamous gangster Whitey Bulger. The subject is juicy and the cast is stacked; this is a perfect comeback vehicle for star Johnny Depp, whom early reviews site as either good or great, but the film at large has been less embraced. Is he enough to pull it in?

22. Star Wars: Episode VII---The Force Awakens (Previous Ranking: 50)
        As the year grows longer and longer in the tooth, and more and more films drop out of the race, it's becoming easier to envision this one cracking the line-up. It may be the seventh entry in an endless film saga, but it's also the most anticipated movie of the year twice-over.

23. Concussion (Previous Ranking: 17)
        A drama about the health risks of football set for a Christmas day release (in the heart of both Oscar and NFL seasons), and starring Will Smith? And he uses an accent?!?! I sincerely have no idea how seriously the Academy will take it, but I could see a world where they go all in.

24. MacBeth (Previous Ranking: 38)
        "I know I usually bet on directors, but Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in a Shakespearean tragedy CANNOT be ranked lower than this." That's what I wrote last year, when this was scheduled for a 2014 release, and nothing has changed outside of a few buzzy reviews.

25. The Walk (Previous Ranking: 5)
        This was the one I initially fell in love with in the 'spectacle' slot... but then came the trailer. I'm still interested in what Director Robert Zemeckis can do, but the film looks fairly limited in scope, and wow, Joseph Gordon-Levitt's accent sounds terrible.

26. By the Sea (Previous Ranking: 26)
        After Unbroken was nearly a no-show at this year's Oscars, it's probably time to give up (Oscar-wise) on Angelina Jolie as a director, but starring with husband Brad Pitt in a period romance keeps Angie in the mix.

27. Snowden (Previous Ranking: 22)
        The name Oliver Stone doesn't mean much to Oscar anymore, but as Citizenfour's Best Documentary win will tell you, he's still mightily interested in Edward Snowden. The prospect of handing young, buzzy stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley such meaty roles is quite enticing.

28. Everest (Previous Ranking: 23)
        A two-and-a-half hour epic whose subject requires no explanation. While director Baltasar Kormákur's relatively unknown status gives me pause, the potential for spectacle, as well as a star-studded cast, keep it in the race for now. 

29. The Martian (Previous Ranking: 37)
        In my heart of hearts, I still think the Academy wants Ridley Scott to have a Best Director Oscar. They've just been waiting for him to get back on his feet; the second he makes something pretty good, watch out. Bonus points for the potential 'spectacle' slot.

30. Mad Max: Fury Road (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
        Yeah, I don't really see Oscar nominating a two hour car chase scene for Best Picture either, but the latest entry in the Mad Max series had critics and audiences in the palm of its hand this summer. Quality is quality, regardless of subject matter.

31. The Secret in Their Eyes (Previous Ranking: 48)
        6 Years removed from a surprise Best Foreign Language Feature win, Argentina's Secret is being remade by the serviceable Billy Ray. Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts will inspire attention, but is the Academy really ready to see this story again so soon?

32. Truth (Previous Ranking: 19)
       As insane as this might sound, screenwriter James Vanderbilt has essentially been coasting on the goodwill of his Zodiac screenplay for the better part of a decade. His directorial debut stars Robert Redford as Dan Rather, a casting that undoubtably had a Best Actor nomination in mind, but is Vanderbilt truly up to the task?

33. Grandma (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
        Lily Tomlin appears poised to make a run at Best Actress, and if the performance is truly as powerful as people say, she could conceivably pull the film in along with her.

34. Trumbo (Previous Ranking: 25)
        Bryan Cranston playing black-listed writer Dalton Trumbo!?! I want so badly to be all in on this, but when your director's most recent films are The Campaign, Dinner for Schmucks, and Meet the Fockers, caution is in order. The trailer isn't doing it any favors.

35. Love & Mercy (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
        Like both Miles Ahead and I Saw the Light from all the way near the top of this list, the fact that L&M is a biopic of a famous musician keeps it on the radar. Will Oscar even remember that this summer release exists when it's time to tally up the votes?

36. Freeheld (Previous Ranking: 36)
        A based-on-a-true-story weepy starring recent nominees Steve Carell and Ellen Page, with last year's Best Actress winner Julianne Moore in the lead. Does Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist director Peter Sollett have it in him to craft a flick that's up to the Academy's standards?

37. Me and Earl and the Dying (Previous Ranking: 32)
        The Sundance Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize winner is always on my radar, but Earl feels a bit less enticing that Beasts of the Southern Wild or Whiplash (not to mention Fruitvale Station). Its status as a prize winner keeps it on the list, but it went virtually unseen in limited release this summer.

38. Room (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
        Based on a best selling novel, Room should afford Brie Larson an excellent showcase for her enormous talents. Wether the movie is good is another discussion altogether.

39. Our Brand is Crisis (Previous Ranking: 33)
        David Gordon Green, now four years removed from his ill-fated sojourn into studio comedy (I'll stick up for Pineapple Express, but Your Highness was awful, and The Sitter was roundly reviled), adapts a documentary (that's a thing?) about the use of American political campaign strategies in South America. Casting Sandra Bullock and Billy Bob Thornton probably won't hurt it's chances.

40. Spectre (Previous Ranking: Unranked)
        Beloved, long-running franchise with yet another stellar looking entry coming down the pipeline. Is there enough residual goodwill left over from Skyfall to get this one over the finish line?

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